Flyhalf Curwin Bosch kicked 14 points as the Sharks beat the Cheetahs 19-13 in a tight, scrappy encounter in Durban on Friday night.
Both teams came flying out the box, throwing the ball around and making plenty fundamental mistakes in equal measure.
The Cheetahs’ rustiness told but they would have felt they let this one slip, after going ahead 13-9 with less than 10 minutes to go but they ran out of legs.
For a game so open, it’s baffling that it took more than half-an-hour for either side to get on the scoreboard. And it wasn’t like there were no chances to, as both teams spurned good opportunities to register three pointers but opted for the lineout and routinely fluffed their lines.
Eventually, Bosch said enough was enough when he slotted a 34th minute penalty to put the hosts marginally in the lead and make the first dent on the scoreboard.
After that, the Cheetahs had two good chances to register on the scoresheet but they first missed a penalty straight after the restart and then, worst of all, Clayton Blommetjies threw a poor pass to Rosko Specman with the try line beckoning just before the interval.
Bosch made them pay before the teams went back into the Kings Park tunnel with his second penalty of the night, putting the Sharks 6-0, and with a man advantage after referee Cwengile Jadezweni sent Carl Wagner to the sin bin.
The Cheetahs lost another attacking 5m lineout six minutes into the second half, their third such gilt-edged chance to get easier three points gone down the faulty lineout drain.
Sanity prevailed in the end as Cheetahs flyhalf Tian Schoeman put them on the board with a penalty less than five minutes later.
Centre Jeremy Ward, who came into the team after Sharks captain Lukhanyo Am injured his hand, thought he had scored the first try of the game but it was chalked off after the TMO found Manie Libbok had fouled Chris Smit in the build up.
Rosko Specman also thought he had crossed the line for the Cheetahs but the flyer was called back for offside.
Schoeman did, however, reply for the visitors with their second penalty of the night, leaving the game on a knife’s edge with less than 15 minutes to go to the finish.
It took William Small-Smith’s try with nine minutes left on the clock for someone to break the shackles, which had a hint of a forward pass by Schoeman in the build-up.
But the Sharks hit back in the 77th minute through substitute winger Madosh Tambwe, after Bosch sent an inviting cross-kick that fell deliciously into Tambwe’s hands for the score.
Bosch, fittingly, scored a near-60m penalty at the death to seal the win.
Sharks – 19 (6)
Penalties: Curwin Bosch (4)
Try: Madosh Tambwe
Cheetahs – 13 (0)
Penalties: Tian Schoeman (2)
Try: William Small-Smith
15 Manie Libbok, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Werner Kok, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi, 7 Henco Venter (captain), 6 Dylan Richardson, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 JJ van der Mescht, 3 John-Hubert Meyer, 2 Dan Jooste, 1 Ox Nche
Substitutes: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 Michael Kumbirai, 19 Ruben van Heerden, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Madosh Tambwe.
15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Malcolm Jaer, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Chris Smit, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Aidon Davis, 7 Junior Pokomela (captain), 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 JP du Preez, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Reinach Venter, 1 Charles Marais.
Substitutes: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Boan Venter, 18 Khutha Mchunu, 19 Oupa Mohoje, 20 Jeandre Rudolph, 21 Ruben de Haas, 22 Reinhardt Fortuin, 23 Howard Mnisi.